Structure for the Rebelliously Unstructured
When my friend, Ian, was little he would confuse the word "organize" with "agonize". For example: "mommy, I don't want to agonize my room right now!". This pretty much sums up my relationship with time management, so far. Nope. Hate it. Do not want.
However, with no distribution of tasks over time, it felt like everything was of equal importance, and I would get overwhelmed simply because I didn't know where to start. My commitment to freedom was, in effect, robing me of freedom. So here's my re-frame: I need to use structure to protect my creative time and energy, not to control or limit it. So I went and got myself some productivity tools. But I'm picky. really picky. Here's what I picked and why:
I found out about the "Entrepreneurial Time Management System" through the blog of the wonderful Danielle Laporte. Created by Dan Sullivan, the system is simple:
You organize your time around three ultra productive days and two free-relax-chill-time days with two buffer days thrown in for good measure.
It looks like this:
Saturday and Sunday: Free time! Party! Friends! Hiking! Watching movies! Sleeping in! (ok, we get it).
Monday : Set up, sort and take care of those niggling details. This is the day to get all of those odds and ends off the ol' to do list. I like this day because it creates a container for all of the things that tend to spill out and overtake my life. Think of this as your packing day for a three day camping trip. Put on some epic tunes and get her done.
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday: Super mega focused productive days. This is where I give myself huge chunks of time to produce. Paint, write, practise, record. I can lose myself in it completely; safe in knowing that all of the "should dos" are taken care of by my buffer days.
Friday: Fun and social buffer day. Fridays are sort of like Mondays; except that the idea is to fill them with the social, fun tasks. (meeting with friends, work jams, finding something to wear to that show). Now you are ready for the weekend.
And repeat. I use this structure, but essentially the takeaway is this: designate certain days for certain tasks that have a similar theme. That way, you can keep up momentum and continuity without getting bored or burning out.
The other thing that really shifted my attitude was this TED talk:
The takeway from this for me was: freeing up your psychic bandwidth will allow you to be more creative and appropriately engaged with what is happening in the moment. David Allen recommends doing this by keeping everything on a master list instead of in your head. No problem. I am the queen of lists. The thing is: my lists end up looking a lot like my head, a little scattered, cluttered and overwhelming.
The solution offered in this talk: ruthless-zen-master-list-making.
Every item on your list is accompanied by the next action required. For example: "business cards" becomes: "get print quote, choose font". If something takes more than one or two steps you reassess why it is on your list and how it relates to your overall goals. Boom. Priorities.
Ultimately, The biggest change for me is realizing that I don't need to rebel against structure if it is an act of support and love for myself and my projects. No self discipline required. Only self love and healthy boundaries. Just make sure you get clear about what that looks like for you.